Kasson-Mantorville has won three straight Section 1AA championships, and last year finished third at the state tournament. Peyton Suess, who has taken her talents to Division I Wake Forest, and Bailey Berge, who now plays for Minnesota State, Mankato, were among four starting seniors who graduated.
With so much talent lost, the obvious expectation was that the KoMets faced a rebuilding year.
But Kasson-Mantorville doesn't rebuild its volleyball squad. It simply reloads.
The KoMets are 16-2, and head coach Adam VanOort said his team's great start hasn't surprised him.
"We certainly miss the players who graduated, but we don't try to replace players," he said. "Every team is a new team, and we have a really good coaching staff at all levels of volleyball, so we're able to develop our players well."
In other words, VanOort knew that there was plenty of talent in the K-M volleyball pipeline.
"I thought we'd be very good this year," he said. "I've been involved in coaching a lot of these players when they were younger. Before the season, I'd been telling a lot of coaches I'm friends with that people think we're going to drop off this year, but I think they will be a little bit surprised at how good we are."
It's not as if the KoMets graduated all of their talent from last year's team. As a junior, Emilee Terry was named to the state all-tournament team, and now as a senior captain and K-M's top hitter, she's happy to lead a team that has its priorities in order.
"Our chemistry is really giggly this year, and we're always having fun and just enjoying playing volleyball," she said. "You can tell we all like being together, both on and off the court. As a captain, I just have to bring an extra level of energy."
That combination of chemistry and energy is translating into not just wins, but dominance. Since losing to Waconia in Marshall on Sept. 7, the KoMets have won 11 straight matches without dropping a set.
VanOort said Terry has played a huge role in the team's winning streak.
"Emilee can play almost any position that we need her to," he said. "Based on the opponent we're facing, we'll put her in a spot to maybe match up against the other team's best player and try to neutralize her. She's fast, she's an athletic attacker, she jumps well and has good feet. There are just very few things that she can't do."
Terry's hitting ability attracts plenty of attention from opponents' blockers, but teams can't beat the KoMets simply by stopping her. K-M has plenty of weapons, including junior Mya Suess, who plays a different kind of game than her older sister but is becoming a big threat on both offense and defense.
"I like to be right in the middle, ready to block or hit," she said. "We have so much potential on this team, because we have such a diversity of players who can do so many things. It's exciting to think about what we could be able to do."
VanOort doesn't shy way from high expectations for this year, despite the fact that Stewartville, as always, stands in the KoMets' path to the state tournament.
"If you want to look at this in terms of Vegas odds, people probably still think Stewartville is the favorite," he said. "They've got pretty much their entire team back from last year, and they're big and athletic. But every year, at least since I've been here, it's come down to us and Stewartville to get out of our subsection. I like the challenge. I'm glad they're good, because that means we have to be great."
Terry, who will play volleyball at Minnesota State, Mankato next year, echoed her coach's belief that the KoMets have enough talent to return to state — and she said they have a simple formula for getting there.
"We want to be one of the best defensive teams in the state," she said. "If you have good defense, you'll probably have good offense, too. We want to win our conference and get back up to the state tournament."